Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sandy Hook, The Voice, and a Bitter Hallelujah

I realize this is completely off-topic. But this blog about technology does not live in a vacuum. 

Neither do any of us.

So what happened on The Voice last night, with one of my favorite songs, was pretty amazing....

Sandy Hook, we are with you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

LinkedIn Endorsements

On LinkedIn, you have many smart, talented, and skilled professional connections. In September 2012, Endorsements made their debut onto the LinkedIn platform. Endorsements are a new feature that makes it easier to recognize LinkedIn users for their skills and expertise. With just one click, you can now endorse your connections for a skill they have listed on their profile or recommend one they have not added yet.

Do you think your connection is great at programming or project management or selling? Let them know!
More importantly, let them know with an Endorsement, so everyone else will know too!
This is how you can make a LinkedIn Endorsement. This is truly easy!

  • Scroll down a LinkedIn connection’s profile, you will see the Skills & Expertise section for that LinkedIn user.
  • To endorse, simply click on the skill (shaded in gray) you intend to endorse. That's it!
  • You can suggest additional skills as well, and LinkedIn will often suggest one or two skills for which you can be the first to offer an Endorsement.
Here is what my Endorsement section looks like. This shows me--and more importantly shows any LinkedIn viewers--a quick snapshot of what OTHERS think I am good at. When a recruiter or hiring manager stumbles by this page, I have a ready-to-go assembly of networked contacts confirming my skills.

This is powerful stuff!

Do you need or want practice? Just click on the image and you will be at my profile.

Want to see who has endorsed you? LinkedIn will notify you via email and on LinkedIn whenever you are endorsed. You can scroll to the bottom of your profile page under Skills & Expertise to see the faces of people who think you are great at what you do. You can also accept any new skills recommended by your peers that you may not have thought to include on your profile.

Here is a fantastic video explaining how to endorse your LinkedIn connections from Marc Miller at Career Pivot. Marc knows the value of this LinkedIn feature. Stop by his website at www.careerpivot.com or send him a thank you tweet at @careerpivot. I know he will appreciate it.

So go Endorse, my friends. It will improve your connectivity to your network, and unquestionably help out others too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Facebook, the World's 3rd Largest Country

Some mind-blowing data concerning Facebook: In Autumn 2012, Facebook surpassed the  1,000,000,000 user milestone.

Facebook would be the world's third largest country, with a GDP of $3.71 billion. (You would think its leader afford more than a T-shirt.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Social Media & Restaurants: The Leaders

Curious how your favorite restaurant or coffee haunt handles Social Media? This quick glance confirms what you have been thinking: These brands are putting enormous efforts into Social Media.

Personally, I am AMAZED at how much Starbucks has distanced itself from its peers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Astonishing!

They are definitely listening. Drop any of these brands a line in a Social Media channel and see what happens.

Restaurant Social Media Top 10 [Infographic]
Restaurant Social Media Top 10 [Infographic]
Compliments of QSRweb.com and Foodservice Social Media Universe

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How I feel about Internet Explorer...

...and my apologies and sympathies to those of you who have no other choice at work.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

E-Mail Blunders You Don't Want To Make

I think I have done all of these at one point or another.

Borrowing material from the fine folks at Rackspace, who have put together 3 minutes worth of humorous and frighteningly familiar e-mail blunders.

My personal favorites (or pet peeves, as the case may be)
  • Don't E-Mail Angry

  • Don't Reply All
Any other favorites in there? Or better yet, any great stories of e-mail nightmares?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How To Add a Twitter Photo Header

Must must must give a shoutout to Courtney Doman, one of my fantastic Spredfast colleagues and fellow Michigan hailer, on some new Twitter features.

The quick news on what's new at Twitter: Twitter announced two main changes: new header photos and updates to background images. So you can be more creative and more expressive than ever with your own Twitter page.

Lots more detail, some step-by-step instructions, and a fine example of a great upgrade to the Spredfast page is waiting for you here:


Go check it out, and let's see some sweet new Twitter pages.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Facebook updates... to Photos

News coming from the universe of Facebook with regard to photos. In this case, I think these features are pretty cool, but they could leave you searching for some photo options that you were previously used to seeing right away.

There is one major surprise, along with some cool features, coming to Facebook Photos.

First, the surprise...

  • Facebook will no longer present albums first but rather tagged pictures of you or the friend whose profile you're looking at.
If you are a world-class organizer, carefully and faithfully filing your photos into Albums, those are still present, but Facebook is going to surface photos of you or of your friend first. Not to worry, the Albums feature is still a click away.

When you land at the Photos page, you will start with Photos of You and see something like this masthead near the top of your Photos page. If you need to look at all of your photos, just click Photos. And to see your super-organized Albums, just click Albums to see your traditional Album view.

And now the new cool features....
  • The new Photos section will let users highlight their favorite pictures, making them four times larger than other photos. 
To highlight a photo, just click the Highlight (star) icon in the corner of the photo. Facebook will grow the photo right before your eyes with a slick animation that shuffles your photos slightly, but remarkably leaves them in the same order.

In the example here, the Highlight (star) icon will appear once you hover over the photo. 

Once you click that Highlight (star) icon, the photo grows to 4 times its original size and shuffles other photos to make way for your now prized masterpiece. Show off those great photos and moments of your life by Highlighting those photos.

And that's not all...
  • You can now issue Likes and Comments right from the Photos page. Again, hovering is the key. Just hover over the photo and you will automatically spot the Like and Comment buttons come into view. Your Likes and Comments will register right from these views without need to detour into a different Facebook page first. Nice to make some quick comments without surfing all over Facebook.
So some pretty cool stuff. And you are in the driver's seat of knowing what happened and how to navigate it. You're so smart!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sometimes, you just can't win on a password

After everything we looked at in the previous blog entry, there is then this alternate approach to passwords.

Frustrating, perhaps, that passwords can be this difficulty. But there is the big takeaway...don't make yourself an easy password target. With a fairly small amount of effort, you can fortify your passwords pretty easily.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

More on Pa$$w0rd$...

OK....you get it.

You need some secure passwords.

You need something hard to guess, but easy to remember. (That's an oxymoron right there.)

You need to protect your accounts.

But how to do that easily?

Here are some tricks and ideas to use to generate passwords that get really strong really fast. Think of this as taking your passwords to the gym to bulk them up....minus the smelly towels.

  • Take an ordinary word, but start replacing letters with symbols. This trick involves makes you password tremendously more complex to crack, but just nominally harder to remember.

If your password is the word strength , you can toughen up that password by replacing letters with similar looking symbols.

  1. Change the s to a $
  2. Change the e to a 3 (because a capital E looks like a 3 in the mirror....also a reminder of the gym).
  3. And for emphasis on all your heavy lifting, drop an explanation point at the end !
Your really simple-to-crack password of 

strength (crackable in about 3.5 minutes)

just became the exponentially more difficult

$tr3ngth! (crackable in about 35 days...way more buff, right?)

Password cracking programs know these same tricks and will try commonly substituted characters. But even so, this simple change makes you a much less desirable target.

  • Use something easy for you to remember, but completely obscure to anyone else.
This trick is a sweet one, because you can "nerd out" on something you love, and justify it. Let's say you follow baseball. On the day you select a password, pick the batting average leader and make it into a password.

Here is the leader board for the day I wrote this blog entry. You might use a first initial, last name and batting average.

Your password is CRuiz.362 Finally, that statistic you store in your brain has a justifiable purpose. And when the time comes to change your password, just look up the new batting champ, and you likely will have a new name and number at your fingertips.

Or you select the division leader, and how many games back the last place team currently stands. Or use the name of the last major movie you saw, with the actors name, and the number of stars you would have given it. You get the idea. Just find something that sticks for you.

I use this one myself...not so much the batting or movie part, but I have a methodology of picking passwords that guarantees something unique on any given day based on my life events, and is still meaningful and easy to remember for me.
  • Treat passwords like your underwear: Change 'em often.
Enough said, right?

The trick to strong passwords is this: No password is infinitely secure. You will always be breakable, just like someone can always break into your house. No matter how strong your security system, someone who wants in will find a way in.

The goal here is to make yourself a harder target. Just like a pick-pocket will target the guy flashing his wallet and money around and skip over those harder to get, you can do something similar with a smartly-chosen password.

Now then....don't you feel stronger? And you haven't even touched a dumbbell...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Passwords are NOT Secret Words

Thinking on passwords....make sure you don't give away your password quite like this...

...and click on the image if you need to indulge.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Your Password shouldn't be password

How important is your password?

In the wake of what happened a little while back at LinkedIn, pretty important. In case you missed it, about 6.5 million passwords were hacked and released on-line about 10 days ago.

The problem is not so much that someone can access your LinkedIn account. Yes, I suppose they could do dastardly things like change your work experience or write a funny recommendation for someone else. But truth is, LinkedIn passwords themselves are not that valuable.

And now there is a value attributed to those stolen LinkedIn passwords: $1. With $1, a criminal can grab a large Diet Coke from McDonalds or your LinkedIn password.

If someone has your LinkedIn password, it is quite likely they have much more. The trick is that you probably use your password over and over and over again...

...for LinkedIn.

...for Facebook.

...for your on-line banking.

...for your company e-mail.

Getting nervous yet?

A few ideas for making your passwords more secure:

  • Keeping your passwords varied, and not re-using them for at least one year.
  • Avoid Querty-based patterns (for example, 12345 or asdfghjkl).
  • Mix capital and lower-case letter formats.
  • Substitute letters and mix in numbers whenever possible.
  • Switch word orders.
  • and PLEASE don't use the word password

There was a time when I could very often guess passwords. There were three tricks:
  1. Use the word password 
  2. Use the name of a child or pet
  3. Flip over the mousepad.
Using just those techniques, I could break in about half the time. Seriously. Don't be that easy.

Secure those passwords, mix them up, and PLEASE CHANGE THEM every so often. I realize password changes are a pain.  But then so is fighting fraud and explaining that nasty-gram from your e-mail account didn't really come from you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More About the Cloud, and How It Helps The Sun Shine

Ever used Gmail?

How about Yahoo Mail?

Or that passing fad called Facebook?

If so, you've used the Cloud. In fact, many people have been using the Cloud for a long time without every quite realizing it. For some reason, web-based applications like these have not registered with most people as being in the Cloud. Only when applications like Google Docs replace softwrae that you install onto a computer that has traditionally been locked inside a PC (like Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint) do people seem to twig to the Cloud angle.

Last time, I talked about why companies or schools might use the Cloud to power their computing environments. It frees business to focus on what they do best, and leave some of the very mundate and technical work of maintaining servers and drivers and patches and inventories to someone else, who will do it on a VERY large scale for a fee.

But what does the Cloud mean to everyday users who just want the sun to shine to have a good day.

Quite simply, the Cloud is a software application hosted in a central location and delivered via a web browser or other thin client. Rather than purchase and install the application on individual computers, people that use the application just access it from a computer..

..or a smart phone..

..or an iPad..

..or your friend's computer..

..or whatever device you happen to have.

Users--whether students or employees or everyday folks--just log on to access the application. The information in the application (like a Facebook update, or the fare for your airline ticket, or tomorrow's weather, or your bank balance) is not locked into a single computer that you tote around. Instead, it becomes available the moment you login, and how you login is up to you.

To the end user, the experience is essentially the same as if the application were installed on the user's hard drive. By having the application delivered as a service, however, people can update their Facebook status from any location, or check up on e-mail using most any device. HR managers can do payroll from the comfort of their living rooms; teachers can work on lesson plans after hours. What's more, users can utilize different devices without having to tote around thumb drives to port over updates, since the contents of the project are stored in the cloud. Want to share a photo? You can put it on a thumb drive and walk it around, or you can upload it to Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, etc. Which is easier? Usually the Cloud-based choices.
From us everyday folks who just want to check in, we are no longer tied to a specific computer with a specific set of software. If I have an access point--often called a thin client--I have access.
And, from an IT perspective, there's a beautiful upside: No longer do you have to update software on machines scattered around a business or campus. Does Facebook send you a CD every time it updates its interface? No, and whether you like Facebook's changes or not, this ability allows applications like Facebook to innovate much more quickly. No more patches, no databases tracking installs and software updates. And the nightmare of keeping track of thousands of software licenses? Gone.
This freedom of checking applications anywhere, anytime, from almost anywhere, is what allows me to go sit in the sun without lugging around a specific computer to do my work, or check in, or update my status or watch a cute video of puppies. 
Things are easier, faster, and more accessible. And free you up from the nightmare of maintaining it all. And that is how the Cloud helps the Sun to shine.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Since When Did My Computer Start Handling Weather? Or What Is A Cloud?

What is "The Cloud" anyway?

You keep hearing about how "The Cloud" is changing computing forever, and you are wondering just when weather reporting and computing became related subjects. 

(Hopefully the techies out there will not cringe too much, because I admit I am going to oversimply this, but hey, that is the entire point of my blog.)

Truth is that if you ask 10 technical people what "The Cloud" is, you will get 10 different answers. But they will all tend to point in the same direction. The Cloud is the ability to use computing power and storage from powerful providers to make your life more simple.

The best analogy I have is the electric utility. At one point, our ancestors generated their own power. They built a windmill or water mill or something like it. With that came all the maintenance and energy of maintaining the power source. Then the electric utility was born. We attach a meter to the side of the house, measure how much power gets used, and pay for it. Period. We no longer generate our own power, we simply buy what we need from somewhere else that specializes in generating a LARGE amount of power and distributes it to a LARGE group of people or businesses as needed.

If I have a hot day and need more air conditioning, I do not figure out how to generate more power; I simply buy more power. Or if I am on vacation, I buy very little power. I no longer have to adjust up and down how much power I generate, nor do I maintain the whole infrastructure to generate power. So long as I have an electric line running to my home and an agreement to pay for what I use, I have power.

The Cloud is similar. If I need lots of storage, I can buy that from someone else (Google, Dell, Rackspace and Apple are examples) and I no longer need to buy a bunch of hard drives, and install drivers for them, and update them, and back them up. The Cloud provider will do all that for me.

This blog is hosted in The Cloud. I actually have no idea just where this text is literally stored. Perhaps Montana, or Oregon, or a few steps from the beach in Miami. And that is the whole point...I don't have to know. I just use it.

You are using The Cloud now. Facebook is essentially in The Cloud. Do you really know where your unfortunate pictures from last night are literally stored? No. That is Facebook's problem to manage, and they just let you access it (and they let all your friends see too! Lucky you!)

The Cloud is not in a single place, or on a particular computer. Rather The Cloud is an idea that you can simply use what you need rather than having to maintain a bunch of computer infrastructure in-house.

Businesses are using The Cloud to reduce their costs, because instead of maintaining a lot of infrastructure (and paying employees to run it), they buy Cloud capacity and leave all that hardware maintenance to someone else who does it on a LARGE scale. Depending on what they use, they pay fees and they get on with their actual business rather than deal with the infrastructure.

So don't be scared by The Cloud. You use it every day, and it helps you avoid maintaining a bunch of computers and lets you get to your important business (like removing that unfortunate Facebook photo.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to Tune Up Your Facebook News Feed

Is your news feed a long list of crap you don't want to dig through to find the few posts you actually want to read? You may have too many friends but it's more likely that you're not filtering anything at all. As much as we complain that Facebook does or does not let me see things from our friends, you do have quite a bit of control over how much or how little someone gets into your News Feed.
The News Feed is where most people spend their Facebook time. It is the list of stories that your friends and followed companies publish, and Facebook curates this list for you using a lot of math to determine what might be important.
Facebook does a decent job of deciding what's important and what's not, but your help is necessary. If you have a friend who posts mostly crap to your news feed, you can tell Facebook to filter out anywhere from some to all of their posts. Just hover over their message in your News Feed and watch for a downward-facing arrow to appear on the upper-right side.
You'll see that you're subscribed to the person who posted the message and now you have a bunch of choices about what you get to see.
If you are totally annoyed with a single piece of content (because perhaps it's that irritating photo that 16 other people already posted), you can click Hide Story. That removes the single story from view. Not to worry, Facebook will let you undo any of this if needed.
If you think the story is a piece of spam (and this applies more to companies in your News Feed than your individual friends) you can Report Story or Spam. That will also Hide the story like above, but be a little cautious, because it does something else under Facebook's covers. If the same story or individual or company gets too many Spam reports, Facebook will start throttling down the number of stories that person or company gets into News Feeds.
You have the option to receive All Updates, Most Updates, or Only Important Updates so Facebook knows how much to show you from that person. No more complaints that Facebook only shows you some things from a friend. You can demand that Facebook show it all to you.
Additionally, you can Unsubscribe from that person's updates altogether (without unfriending them). That means you remain Facebook friends, but absolutely no stories from them will appear in your News Feed. For that friend who posts nothing but cute cat videos, you can Unsubscribe and not see this anymore.

Depending on what the post was, and how it was published, you may see one or two other choices in there as well. If the post was a photo, you can ask not to see Photos anymore, but still get everything else. Or if your friend posted from an iPhone, you can ask that you never see their iPhone-posted content again. Not things I would use terribly often, but could be of use if you really want some advanced News Feed management.
So now, if you are tired of seeing Yahoo News in your News Feed, or you'd like fewer updates from that girl who uses Facebook a bit too much, you know how to get there. This is a great way to build a news feed without constant posts from people who annoy you.
Try it; I guarantee you'll feel like a Facebook pro.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tagging Friends on Facebook...the way you want to

So you really enjoy tagging your friends on Facebook, especially in comments, but you would like to edit how that tag appears. Facebook loves to deliver "full" tags, but how often you to use "full" names in conversation?  You would really like to say, "Hey Mark, let's do coffee." but Facebook requires you to say "Hey Mark Zuckerberg, let's do coffee" which feels a little like always talking in 3rd person.

My good news...you can edit the tag, and I will show you how.

First, a bit about Facebook tagging.
  • Facebook will start suggesting friends after you type 5 consecutive characters which match someone in your list of friends. If you want to tag Barack Obama (and you are friends with him), Facebook will offer him as a tagging suggestion once you type B-a-r-a-c .
  • Facebook will also offer suggestions for names with 4 or less characters if you type the entire name. For example, if you want to tag Mark Zuckerberg (and again, you are friends with him), Facebook will offer him as a tagging suggestion once you type M-a-r-k .
  • Once you spot the tag you want, just click or arrow to select it.
Onward, to editing the tag.
  • Perhaps you want to tag your friend John Doe, but you also want the comment to read something like this, "Thanks, John, for being such a unique friend." You really want the Doe out of there.
  • Once you have John Doe established as a tag, then hit your Backspace key to remove the last name. Facebook will remove the last name from the text, but will retain the entire first and last name for the tag. So John Doe will be tagged, but the comment will only have the first name of John.
  • Alternatively, you can use your mouse or arrow keys to navigate into the tag. This way you  can take out the first name, if you desire. "Thanks, Doe, for being such a unique friend."
And now the disclaimers:
  • Unlike some tags, you cannot entirely invent your own name, or use a nickname. For example, if I always knew John Doe as Scooter, I'm out of luck. Facebook will not let me use the text Scooter to tag John Doe.
  • Facebook will require you retain either the first or last name for the tag. In other words, you establish John Wilbur Doe as a tag, you can use John or John Wilbur (from the beginning of the tag) or Wilbur Doe or Dow (from the end of the tag). You cannot use Wilbur by itself, because that is not the first or last name of the tag.
Give this a try. Like just about anything else I write about here, you will latch onto these little tricks once you try them. And this little one, easy as it is, will make you look like a Facebook pro. Somebody is going to ask you, "Psst...can you show me how you did that?" and you will be a genuis in their eyes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Social Media 101

Do you use different social networks for different reasons? Here is a great infographic on when to use each social network.


Toss around one or two of these factoids and you will be the smartest one at the party! (I know this photo gets a little unwieldy on the blog. Just click the graphic or the link immediately to read it more clearly.)


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Wikipedia Blackout...Why it's Happening and how to work around it

Wikipedia has blacked out its English-language website today to protest pending legislation before the US Congress. In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in the opinion of some, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet.

The legislation could hold liable sites which direct to pirated content. In other words, sites like Google and Wikipedia (and the small Encyclopedia of Matt) could be sued simply for carrying a link to a site which has pirated content.  Personally, I say go after the pirates, not the sites that have made themselves successful with open and free-flowing information.

Google remains "open for business" but has blacked-out their logo as you see above.

If you REALLY need Wikipedia today, pages show briefly before being replaced by the notice explaining the blackout action. Pressing the Escape key on your keyboard prevents this from happening, although it must be done for each individual page, and you need a pretty quick finger too.

So use the tools if you need to, but at least un-black after you examine their noble reasons for the blackout.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Help...Facebook is drowning me with e-mail...

Is Facebook drowning you in e-mail? Do you get notifications for everything happening to you on Facebook, and you need it to stop? Here is how...

By default, Facebook's settings do tend to leave you with a tremendous number of triggers which can result in e-mail messages to you. To reduce (or even eliminate) the number of reasons Facebook sends you e-mail messages:

  1. Click the down arrow/triangle to the right of your name and the word Home at the top of your Facebook page. This will be in the blue bar across the top of most any page in Facebook.
  2. From the small menu that appears, click Account Settings.
  3. Near the top left corner of the screen, click Notifications.
  4. Scroll down to the All Notifications section.
  5. You will see sections for Facebook, Photos, Groups, etc. Each section has a Edit link on the right end. Click Edit for any section.
  6. Within these sections are all the triggers for which Facebook could send you an e-mail message. Uncheck the boxes down the right for anything you would rather not get a separate e-mail about. When you are done with one section, just click Edit on the next to continue unchecking.

That's it! The more boxes you uncheck, the fewer e-mails you should get from Facebook.

Not to worry though...Facebook will still let you know of new updates, Friend requests and the like using the icons near the upper left corner of the Facebook page. You just won't get separate e-mails for all of this too.

I personally have turned off virtually all Facebook notifications via e-mail. Facebook already saps a bit too much of my time (which is my own shortcoming, not Facebook's). Nice way to stem that avalanche of email coming from Facebook, time you could spend connecting instead of reading about connecting.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What we Love and Hate on Twitter

Below is a curious InfoGraphic detailing what we Love and Hate on Twitter. Someone analyzed Tweets that included the words LOVE and HATE, and came out with these results.

Things we Love on Twitter...good news for Taco Bell, Wine and BMW.

Things we Hate on Twitter...bad news for Microsoft, Wendy's and Chrysler.

And I don't have any comment on the Justin Bieber mentions...none at all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How People View You on Facebook...Literally

Here is a curious article about how people look at your Facebook profile...literally. Researchers used eye-tracking technology to determine how viewers literally looked at social media pages.

If you ever consider using social media for business or to attract more interest, you should know that...

...on Facebook, Klout and StumbleUpon, the profile picture matters, big-time. So put a nice photo of yourself in there instead of your pet.

...on LinkedIn, the situation shifts...the job profile got more attention than the picture.

...good content at the top of the page rules the day. The further something is down the page, the fewer people view it.

Nice article...go check it out here...